After Doula Comes… (A Beginner’s Guide to Approaching Childcare)
By Doula Jen
As our time with a client comes to an end, we are often asked to help think through the next phase of support:
This can be a difficult decision. It’s your child! Of course you want the whole package.
You want a caregiver who is second best only to the parent, but who also knows not to step over the line into parental territory. You want fun, comfort, and healthy snacks; socialization, but also safety.
There are many, many options…too many, in fact. For many families, the endless possibilities are overwhelming. Because we’re asked so often, we thought we’d share some of the information we give to our clients. While it would never be our place to make this decision for a family or even guide it significantly, we can, will, and do break down the options so that starting the process seems less daunting.
Your family, your needs.
This is a very personal decision. What’s right for your neighbor or colleague might not best fit your family’s particular situation. Follow your heart, trust your gut, and have a back-up plan in place. The right fit is out there. Be picky, thorough, and demanding. Childcare providers should understand the intensity of the interview process!
Check it out.
Beyond “trust your instincts,” our only piece of concrete advice is that you obtain a thorough background check. There are two kinds. You need to obtain a national check, not just one from your state of residency. Criminals relocate. Get the full story.
In some cases, the responsibility of running the check will fall on your shoulders, however, most agencies, childcare facilities, and even online referral programs have them on hand or will run them for you. If for some reason an agency, organization, or individual refuses a background check…move on. Your caregiver should have nothing to hide.
You need to ask if your care provider has a driver’s license. Seems simple, but in the moment, some parents forget to ask! In the case of an emergency, the ability to drive can be life saving. Even day-to-day, driving is a skill you might require. Do you want your nanny to transport your child? There are outings, medical appointments, activities, and general errands to consider. It may not be something you think of at first, but a care provider without a driver’s license might prove to be inconvenient. Some even see lack of a license as a red flag, however, the background check—when done properly—should alert you to any major concerns.
These two administrative pieces are important and will be the first questions you ask your potential childcare providers, however, before you sit down with anyone, you will want to ask yourself some questions first.
What is important to you?
What is it that you want? Do you hope to reap the benefits of your childcare provider’s expertise? Would your rather they defer to your exact wishes? Something in between? Do you value cleanliness about enrichment? Nutrition above routine? Talk it out and brainstorm. What do you think will make you feel the most comfortable? What scenario will help you maintain a balanced and stress-free life as you navigate between work and home?
With your general philosophy in check, you can flat out ask your candidates if they tend to call the shots or defer to the parents. But first you need to sort out who you’ll be asking. You need to narrow the possibilities.
Narrow Your Search. Daycare Vs. Nanny
Your starting point will be to figure out whether you want a daycare facility or your own personal nanny. There are, of course, pros and cons to both. For example, an experienced nanny will usually be prepared for the demands of the job, knowing both what to expect and what the contracting process entails. On the flip side, a nanny will only have worked intimately with a few children, making her experience—while valid—specific to a handful of individuals. Also, the in-home nanny cannot provide the extreme socialization and opportunity for peer fun that a child center most definitely does.
The typical childcare center employee often receives ongoing training and has a deep knowledge of the developmental stages of all children. They are accustomed to a variety of ages, situations, and parent personalities. They might come with a larger arsenal of songs, games, and troubleshooting methods. One of the downsides of a center employee is that they often fall into this job accidentally, because there was an opening and they needed work. It is not necessarily their passion in life. Certainly for some it is, and that’s just it. At a childcare center you will likely work with several people, not to mention the interaction—which can be both a treat and a nuisance—with a group of children and their parents. You are opening up a wider world of possibilities, but with those possibilities come more variables to consider. More to deal with, for better and worse.
What about Grandma? Is she in the mix? What about working from home? Is that an option? Rearranging your schedule and taking shifts with your partner while hiring a babysitter as needed? Can you swing it? Maybe. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
If you choose daycare…
If you decide that childcare center is right for you, visit several at different times of day. Pop in unexpectedly. Many daycares and preschools roll out the red carpet for official parent tours, but you want to know what the vibe is like just before nap time. Is the nitty gritty and unexpected well managed? Furthermore, how do you feel in the space? Happy? Anxious? A little sad? Overwhelmed? Pay attention to your own reaction and imagine that your child’s will be somewhat the same. Choose something that feels good, that will help you continue to feel good when you drop your child off and say goodbye.
In-home nanny more your speed? Agency Vs. Private…
Think a nanny is right for you? There are still more options to consider. Do you go with an agency? A private individual posting in the paper or on Craigslist? Someone from care.com?
Agency placed nannies tend to be a bit more expensive, but parents gain extra value in that they have a larger pool of prospective caregivers to choose from. With the help of the service, parents can interview endlessly from a large group of hand-selected, well-matched individuals. If things aren’t working out with a chosen nanny, they can go back to the agency and request a change. In this situation, the background checks are always thorough and in place before the interview process.
The upside to a private nanny is that they are usually available immediately and are generally more affordable. Also, their references tend to be more honest because they are not filtered through a company with an interest in protecting their own good name.
Breathe. This is hard, but it’s going to be OK.
Whew! Lots to consider. Going back to work is hard enough! Be good to yourself as you move through the process. At the end of the day, this is YOUR choice and as with all choices you make for your child, you will proceed with wonderful, instinctive love and will come to the right decision.